What is the best way to live? With a BMW, a big house, and a job with an important title? Of course those things may be great to have at times, but they only contribute to the real quality of your life in a certain way. Your true happiness—the way you really feel—has more to do with your understanding of Life and how you fit in it. When we completely identify ourselves with the material aspects of our being-in-the-world, we may come to feel insecure or ungrounded, because those things come and go. They're undependable, momentary,
The other day while sitting on a rock by the river giving my mind a break, a fish suddenly surprised me by jumping clear out of the water right in front of me. Naturally, fish do that while pursuing bugs to eat, but there didn't seem to be any bugs around. This fish appeared to be jumping free of its watery medium for fun – or to make a kind of statement, like:
"Here I am! I'm free of the water for this moment! I'm exposed to the air-world!" (of course, he may have been saying, "Hey buddy, you seen any bugs?" but for my purposes we'll stick with the first version).
For a very brief moment (the image of which stays with me indefinitely) the fish was "a fish out of water," separated from the actual medium of his being – the water; but if you had blinked, you would have missed it.
People say that about life too, don't they? You blink, and it's over.
Water has always served as a great metaphor for the nature of Life as a medium – the depth of its mysteries; the ceaseless directional flow of it; the images and inevitabilities that it carries our way, that arise from it; the surprises that suddenly drop into it from out of nowhere. Those are the things that change, that come and go – but it's the medium it takes place in that I want you to think about. This is about the way you think about it. Let's think about it like we were fish (in a Buddhist way):
"As a fish taken from his watery home and thrown on dry ground, our thought trembles all over in order to escape the dominion of Mâra (the tempter)."
The Dhammapada, 3: 34
Like that fish out of water, we're not entirely safe or secure exposed to this world of shifting material conditions, filled with destructive temptations. As an "Out-of-Body Near-Death Experiencer" myself, I can testify to you that we are clear, sweet spiritual (energy) beings, inhabiting the (sometimes unreliable) vehicles of this body we're in—and this tenuous world all around them.
No wonder we might feel insecure.
Like that fish, humans are 90% water ourselves; and if we can remain aware of that medium that is our natural element (and our real ultimate home)—the true ocean of energy we swim in every moment—we can leap free of the demands and pressures of this difficult world, and "who we're supposed to be" in it. We can detach with compassion from all this messy stuff, and return to the true, secure medium of our being—which I like to simplify as Love.
Have you ever heard of "The Gnostics?" They lived what we think of as Christian spiritual principles before Christianity was institutionalized, and they had a very interesting "fish-out-of-water" way of looking at life that I think fits the picture I'm drawing pretty perfectly. They saw themselves as brief visitors here, in a way:
"The Gnostic ideal, simply put, is that you really are a displaced part of Heaven, but during this experience of human life, that knowledge eludes you. Momentarily, you’ve forgotten your true connection and the way to return, so you’ve actually come back into this life to rescue your authentic self, trapped in your limited perceptions of this world. Within a transformative moment of gnosis, you’ll remember who and what you really are, where you really come from, and how to take yourself back home.
In Gnostic mythology, all of humanity is an expression of a divine light imprisoned on an imperfect plane of existence, enfolded in the beauty of earthly existence, yet victimized by the suffering that is such a big part of it all. Each of us contains a connecting spark of the Divine Light within called the pneuma (what the Hindus might call atman). Our fragment, imprisoned in this body, has fallen away from the radiant, infinite matrix of limitless potential, which is our Source called the pleroma.
Life's sadnesses inspire the longing to reunite our spark with the transcendent unifying power that we inherently know to be our loving origin—the effort to restore ourselves to our authentic nature. When gnosis takes place, we are restored as beings of light."
from How to Get to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying)
So whenever you're feeling uncomfortable, when you're experiencing that "fish-out-of-water" feeling, take a blink and give yourself a moment of "gnosis." Return to that medium of our solid, profound grounding – this ocean of Divine Energy we all come from, and all return to – and experience being enfolded in that Love that is the true nature and source of life on this beautiful Earth.
...and remember what every fish knows by heart:
"Everything that changes, isn't real."
"Reduce your needs to the simplest level of intelligence and
practicality. Live lightly and respectfully on the surface of Mother Earth!"
from 20 Tips for Getting to Heaven; How to Get to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying), Llewellyn Books, 2018.
Read about this and much more in the new book: How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying), Wisdom From a Near-Death Survivor, from Llewellyn Worldwide, and the first book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond. Both are available everywhere – but ask for them at your local bookstore!